Things are trending downward.
Tony Soprano's first episdoe lament about the state of the mob fits perfectly for the baseball team from Queens after their 13-2 loss on Monday night. That makes seven losses in the last 10 games, 12 losses in the last 18 and an unshakable feeling that realists are now watching the Wild Card race more closely than the battle for the NL East. Of course, those realists also know that if Mike Pelfrey doesn't figure something out quick, there's not much point to watching either one.
Pelfrey got just four outs before leaving the game with six runs and a third straight loss attached to his register. It's now four straight awful starts for Pelfrey, raising his ERA from 2.71 to 4.01 in the process, and it seems like ages ago that anyone was considering this to be a breakout season for the right-hander. He looks exactly like the same maddening pitcher he was in 2009, the least welcome retro revival this side of acid-washed jeans.
Is the problem physical? Pelfrey was supposed to start Saturday but was pushed back to Monday because of a stiff neck. Hopefully that resolved itself as all the turning your head to watch where Diamondback hitters deposited his dismal offerings would surely make things worse. Pelfrey said the neck wasn't the reason he fizzled in the desert.
So does that mean it is mental? Jerry Manuel thinks so. Perhaps in tribute to the late James Gammon, Manuel said he wants the pitcher to cut out the fancy stuff and stick with the heater. Sounds simple enough, so long as you forget about the fact that Pelfrey's confidence and mental state have been two of the bigger sticking points in his development as a pitcher. With Pelfrey, you might actually prefer a physical ailment than a mental one.
What's left? There's always the possibility that Pelfrey has somehow been turned into a zombie whose quest for tasty brains keeps him from throwing pitches with the same zip he did earlier this season. This is an admittedly difficult theory to prove but the stiff neck may be the first sign of the changes taking root deep inside Pelfrey's soul. If he's walking to the mound for his next start with his arms straight out in front of him, we'll know the truth and then we can deal with it.
Whatever the problem, now's the time to fix it. Talk trades all you like, but without Pelfrey giving what he gave earlier this season it is hard to believe this team is heading anywhere but further down that downward slope.